A housing and commercial development project in the area of the Fifth Street-Old Lynchburg Road intersection can now move forward.
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night voted to recommend approval of a rezoning for the Albemarle Business Campus, which includes a maximum of 128 residential units and 401,000 square feet of non-residential use on about 13.6 acres.
The proposal will rezone two parcels of land and a portion of a third parcel from R2 residential, R10 residential and commercial office to Neighborhood Model District, which is intended to be a flexible zoning district that allows a mix of residential and non-residential uses.
Developer Kyle Redinger said he has lived in the county and Charlottesville for nearly 40 years.
“I am a longtime entrepreneur and I like to leave a positive mark on the places that I design. So it’s important for me to bring vibrancy to this area, and having a greenfield site at this location is immensely important to me,” he said.
Supervisors also voted 4-2 to approve a special exception to waive the requirement for a Neighborhood Model District to have a minimum of two housing types. Supervisors Donna Price and Liz Palmer cast the dissenting votes.
In August, the county Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning and denial of the special exception.
The Board of Supervisors can waive the requirement for at least two housing types if at least two housing types are already present within a quarter-mile of the proposed district. There are at least four housing types that are already present within a quarter-mile of the proposed district, according to county staff.
Redinger said if the project were granted the exception, he would be able to build 128 multi-family units. Without the exception, he would build 100 multi-family units and 10 rental townhouses, which could be between 10 and 18 total units with an accessory unit on the first floor.
“I really like your addition, and I really appreciate that you put the townhouses in the accessory units in there,” Palmer said. “I would rather see that happen, then have the flexibility of removing those, and that’s how I see the special exception.”
Other supervisors said they were fine with the exception, allowing Redinger to have one type of unit.
“I personally would be OK with a special exception because of the many different kinds of housing, right there,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek. “I do support the project. I think it’s very well designed and I’m very glad to have more employment rather than more housing, because we have lots of housing in this area, and having places for some of those residents nearby to go to work right there would be wonderful.”
Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors approved a public-private partnership for the project — contingent upon the rezoning receiving approval from the board — where Redinger would reserve 25,000 square feet of Class A office space for a primary business, which, according to a staff report, is a business that generates more than 50% of its revenue from outside of the region. Under the agreement, Redinger would receive $100,000 from the county Economic Development Authority through synthetic tax increment financing.
At a recent EDA meeting, Economic Development Director Roger Johnson said that if the county wanted to build a speculative office like this, his office projected it would cost around $7 million.
“By having a public-private partnership, we’re able to access private capital to do a public good, and in return for that we refund some of the taxes for the public elements that they create,” he said.
Johnson said this will help solve a problem in the area.
“We’ve literally had existing businesses that we would like to reside in our county unfortunately leave our community because there was a lack of available, affordable space,” he said.
Originally, a proposed development on the site, called Royal Fern, had a maximum of 300 residential units and a maximum of 125,000 square feet of non-residential space, which the county Planning Commission recommended denial of last year. During a Planning Commission work session in February, Redinger presented a proposal for the Albemarle Business Campus, with a maximum of 128 residential units and a maximum of 225,000 square feet of non-residential use.
Out of that work session, Redinger switched the request to a Neighborhood Model District zoning, which allowed for a specific site plan and renderings for the site, and expanded green space on the site.
In the Southern and Western Urban Neighborhoods Master Plan, part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, the area is labeled on the future land use map as Community Mixed Use, which allows for residential up to 34 units per acre, community-scale retail, service and office uses, among other things, and Urban Density Residential, which allows for six to 34 units per acre.
The gross and net residential density of the project is approximately 9.4 units per acre, according to county staff.
The Comprehensive Plan guides the county’s long-term vision for land use and resource protection, and includes master plans for the designated development areas of the county. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.
During the public hearing, Rex Linville, with the Piedmont Environmental Council, said there are two distinct projects with this proposal “masquerading as one in order to give the appearance of community.”
“Instead of serving the mixed-use vision, the project appears to be moving forward because it is a financially feasible model that will generate tax revenue for the county and Opportunity Zone tax incentives for the applicant,” he said. “The original Royal Fern project contained a mix of uses that would have far better served the Southern Neighborhood for tomorrow and today. It was better because it met needs on a single site. That’s how mixed-use is supposed to function.”
The project also includes a bus shelter, bike racks, multi-use paths, trails and sidewalks.
Redinger also will provide $500,000 for Albemarle’s Capital Improvement Program to use on infrastructure improvements in the area, such as schools or roads, and would dedicate a portion of the property for a roundabout at the intersection of Fifth Street and Old Lynchburg Road.